The Yankees have a few question marks in their roster heading into the 2019 season, but let’s take a look at how their infield is shaping up.
The Yankees’ 2019 infield took a significant hit just a few days after they were eliminated by the Boston Red Sox in Game Four of the 2018 ALDS, when manager Aaron Boone revealed in an end-of-year press conference that fan favorite shortstop Didi Gregorius would be undergoing Tommy John surgery and would miss a significant portion of the 2019 season.
As the team searched for options to fill in for Gregorius, both in-house replacements and trade or free agent possibilities, the calls for the Yankees to sign Manny Machado instantly got louder. The question of Gleyber Torres’ ability to play shortstop again came into focus and raised the question of who would fill in at second base was Torres to move to shortstop.
Three months later, the Yankees have brought in DJ LeMahieu and Troy Tulowitzki in free agent signings, the idea of trading Miguel Andujar to make room for Machado has been thrown around, and the Luke Voit vs. Greg Bird debate has been raised. With Machado yet to be signed, here’s a look at each potential infielder other than Machado and the positions where we could see them play.
Luke Voit (1B):
Voit was acquired from the Cardinals in July in exchange for relief pitchers Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos. After struggling and seeing little play time for about a month, he burst onto the scene with a two home run, four RBI game against the Orioles on August 24.
From there, the home runs didn’t stop, and he grew as a fan favorite for his Sammy “Sosa-esque” hops after each homer. His clutch two-run triple in the Wild Card Game put the game out of reach and helped the Yankees advance to the ALDS, though he didn’t have much to show with the bat in the series as the Yankees were eliminated.
Manager Aaron Boone said that Voit’s late-season surge certainly has given him the leg up on the first base job going into 2019, saying that “He certainly came over here and was given that opportunity and took it and kicked the door in”. Greg Bird has had Spring Training success before and the Yankees have always been high on him so he will certainly be given a chance to win the job, but expect Voit to go into Spring Training ahead of the competition.
Greg Bird (1B):
Bird’s 2018 can only be described as disastrous. After bursting onto the season in the second half of 2015, he missed all of 2016 and most of 2017 with injuries. He was a key cog in the Yankees’ 2017 playoff run, delivering a number of key hits, most notably his go-ahead home run in the seventh inning of the Yankees’ 1-0 win over the Indians in ALDS Game Three.
The main storyline surrounding him entering 2018 was “what can Bird do in his first fully healthy season?”. Before the season even started, he got injured again and didn’t play for the first time until late May. He put together a miserable season, hitting .199 with a -0.6 WAR in 82 games.
He’ll be given a shot to compete for the starting first base job in 2019, but he’s running out of chances to prove that he can not only stay healthy at the big league level but be a productive player when he’s healthy as well.
DJ LeMahieu: (1B, 2B, SS, 3B):
LeMahieu was signed just last week by the Yankees, a sign to many people that a Machado-Yankees marriage was becoming much less likely. Though he was a Gold Glove second baseman the past few years for the Rockies, he said that he was told by the Yankees to “bring a lot of gloves” to Spring Training, implying that he’ll play a number of positions, a “Swiss Army Knife” of sorts.
My guess is that he’ll play second base with Gleyber Torres playing shortstop until Gregorius returns, though he could definitely win the starting first base job if Voit and Bird both leave much to be desired.
His role when Gregorius returns is yet to be determined, but his swing should play well at Yankee Stadium and was a good signing by General Manager Brian Cashman and co., even if he takes the Yankees out of the Machado sweepstakes.
Gleyber Torres (2B, SS):
Torres debuted for the Yankees in late April. By late May, he had compiled multiple walk-offs, nearly double-digit home runs, established himself as part of the Yankees’ young core, and had captured the hearts of Yankees fans everywhere. He struggled for part of the Summer and looked abysmal in the ALDS, but his bat played a significant part in helping them make the playoffs.
He came up through the minors as a shortstop but most of his playing time was at second base, other than when he filled in for an injured Didi Gregorius at shortstop. He looked much more comfortable at second base than at shortstop, though, with Gregorius out, Torres could very well play shortstop a good amount this season.
Expect to see him get playing time at both shortstop and second base throughout the first few months of the season.
Troy Tulowitzki (SS):
Signed earlier this month, Tulowitzki is a wild card that the Yankees couldn’t pass up for the league minimum salary. He’s had his fair share of injury concerns across his career, especially recently, as he played only 66 games in 2016 and missed all of 2017 with injuries to both of his ankles.
Tulowitzki had been connected to the Yankees in the past- in 2010 while negotiating with free agent Derek Jeter, Brian Cashman famously told his star shortstop that Tulowitzki was a preferable alternative to him, suggesting that “We’re not paying extra money for popularity, we’re paying for performance.”
Tulo was brought in to provide depth with the bit of hope that he could rekindle his talent in the days of old when he was a perennial All-Star for the Rockies before his trade to the Blue Jays.
He could very well start a number of games at shortstop, though if LeMahieu starts at second base, Torres would slide over to shortstop and likely force Tulowitzki to the bench.
Miguel Andujar (3B, potentially 1B):
Andujar’s rookie year was wildly impressive, as he seemed to slap doubles every game while also developing plate discipline after a noticeable lack of walks and tendency to chase pitches out of the zone early on in the season. The knock on him was his defense, as Yankees fans’ hearts skipped a collective beat every time he double-clutched before throwing to first.
Adrian Beltre has reached out to Andujar to give him tips on how to improve defensively, but the jury is still out on whether we’ll ever see Andujar become even an average defensive player. As of now he still currently plays into the team’s plans as the starting third baseman, though a potential Machado signing could move him to first base or DH, or perhaps he gets traded this offseason or at the trade deadline this July.
As long as he is on the Yankees, they will certainly find a way to get his bat into the lineup, regardless of position.